T-Shirt Evangelism July 26, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Evangelism, Identity & Purpose, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Evangelism, Faith Sharing, spiritual practices, Values
Back in 2006, I spoke to the Western New York Annual Conference about living the “Gifts, Graces, and Fruit of the Spirit.” (Based on my sensational book, Beyond Money – no longer in print, so contact Discipleship Resources at the General Board of Discipleship and raise a stink…) For the Fruit of the Spirit portion of the presentation, I wore a T-Shirt that simply says, “Got Fruit?” (borrowing/stealing the motif and font of the “Got Milk?” campaign). I still wear the T-shirt, and I absolutely love it because no matter where I wear it, people always comment on it and I have opportunity to discuss with them what it means. I was in Nashville, Tennessee a couple of weeks ago and a younger couple commented on my shirt — “Cool, but what does it mean?” I explained my vision for churches living the fruit of the Spirit — being known for their love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The young woman paused for a moment, then said, “If churches were really like that, we might actually go!” I commented that there are some churches like this out there, and she responded, “None I’ve ever found.”
Open Doors 101 – Part 2 February 22, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Evangelism, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Church growth, church marketing, Evangelism, The United Methodist Church
Yesterday I began a reflection and critique on my most recent engagement with the ReThink Church campaign. Today I want to continue the reflection on some “meta-issues” that are related to, but not specifically about, ReThink Church. However, before I go any further I do want to say that I really appreciated the enthusiastic and collaborative leadership that Ken Sloane and Jennifer Rodia brought to the event. The powerful witness to shared leadership between male and female, clergy and laity, older and younger offered as much grace as anything they said, and I thought they worked together amazingly well. they are both very good at what they do.
In my opinion, ReThink Church reflects the current cultural confusion between marketing and communication. Marketing is all about message — creating a compelling message/identity/brand and transmitting it effectively. This is the remnant pitfall of late 20th century “3G” communication technology. When communication technology developed that allowed single point broadcasting to a wide multi-point audience (think radio, television, movies), the very definition of communication changed. With the advent of the “4G” — multi-point/multi-platform communication between points and platforms — communication is returning to a healthier place.
In classic communications theory, there are five aspects of effective communication — creation of a message, transmission of a message, reception of a message, interpretation of a message, response to/application of a message. Dialogue depends on a dynamic interaction of these aspects. The newly emerging “polylogue” (I love that term…) depends on the full engagement of all aspects as well. But the 3G culture of the 2oth century displaced communication with marketing — creating and transmitting messages, disregarding reception and interpretation, and evaluating response based on numbers — sales, attendance, customers, clients, etc. Without direct, clear qualitative feedback throughout the process, many decisions are made based on assumptions and probabilities rather than direct interaction.
Teach September 15, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian Education, Communication in the Church, Congregational Life, Evangelism, prayer, Stewardship, The Bible.
Tags: Christian Education, Communication, Evangelism, prayer, Stewardship
I may get blasted on this. That’s okay. I am sharing almost twenty years of similar responses here, and I think we — especially clergy — need to listen. Laity across the United Methodist Church are sending four messages loud and clear: prayer, stewardship, evangelism and Bible are NOT being taught in our churches. We are assuming that people know these things. Yet, it is clear that our church is in danger of extinction because these four things (at the very least) are not being taught. In our fever to grow, get new people, build more buildings, pay our bills, and keep up with the newest 7 Steps, 12 Keys, 40 Days programs we have drifted from the basics. We have cultivated a Christian culture of biblically illiterate, nominally connected, scarcity-minded, non-evangelicals.
In Wisconsin I have continued to ask the same questions I did across the denomination for the 14+ years I worked for the General Board of Discipleship. Essentially, I ask lay people how well equipped they are to grow in their spirituality and their discipleship. The vast majority do not remember the last time anyone taught about prayer in the church. Most cannot remember the last time anyone encouraged them to pray. Many are aware that there is a “prayer circle” or “prayer chain” in their church, but they don’t know how it works. Four-out-of-five United Methodists can’t tell you the difference between intercessory prayer, confession, petition, and they don’t know what a doxology or benediction are. Small matter? Maybe, but they are indicators of the more fundamental issue. United Methodists don’t pray much at all. Over 50% don’t think prayer is very important to their faith, and as indicated in an earlier post, many simply are “too busy” to pray on a regular basis. Almost 40% admit that they really “don’t know how to pray” or don’t know “if I do it right.”
Multiple Choice September 8, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Evangelism, Personal Reflection, Religion in the U.S..
Tags: anti-intellectualism, Evangelism, hypocrisy
I want to choose #1, but in light of the current news about an evangelical whack-job in Florida who wants to commemorate September 11 with the burning of the Koran, I am leaning toward one of the other three options. Once again, I am flabbergasted at the narrow-minded intolerance of some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I get the fact that whole religions are judged solely on the actions of a few fringe elements — that’s the point. Many American Christians think they know all about Islam because of a segment of terrorists who claimed they were acting in the name of Allah. Now, many people will think Christianity is all about religious intolerance because of our own segment of terrorists claiming they are doing some holy thing. It makes me sick. It makes me sad. It makes me ashamed.
Witness for the Prosecution May 17, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Evangelism.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Evangelism, Faith Sharing
Here’s something I don’t understand. Why do so many people in the church who teach evangelism despise non-Christians? No, really. It would seem to me that as Christians we would absolutely LOVE everyone who isn’t a Christian, but this isn’t the case. Over and over I meet United Methodist evangelists who are harsh and divisive when it comes to engaging with non-Christians. I tell a story about a mission project that my UM church did with a group of Hindus and a Harley-Davidson biker club. I use the story as an illustration of true unity and harmony, interfaith collaboration, and building bridges with those outside the faith. A few years ago, a prominent pastor in our denomination stormed up to me after I told the story shaking with rage. ”What kind of Christian are you?” he began. ”Telling people they should reach out to heretics and thugs. Your job is to convert such people, not buy into their lies You should have nothing to do with such people, and you shouldn’t encourage others to work with them either!” I was so taken aback at the time, I didn’t know how to reply. But whenever I think about this experience I confront a fundamental illogic. If we want to “convert” others, how is avoiding them a good strategy? If evangelism is not only our words, but our actions as well, how do we witness to our faith in the vacuum of staying only with our own kind? How does someone else’s lack of faith or belief in another faith mitigate my responsibility to witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ? How with others know my faith if I refuse to engage with them in a meaningful way?
Dots Dying to Be Connected February 12, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Core Values, Evangelism, Seeker spirituality.
Tags: Church growth, Spiritual seekers
Recent conversations with pastoral leaders in my home Conference (Wisconsin) about young adult ministry share a common theme: there simply isn’t enough interest in the area. Apparently, young adults don’t want what the churches have to offer. Except, this morning when I stopped off for my morning Buzz at Beans ‘n Cream coffee shop, I noticed two small groups engaged in some deep Bible study. One table hosted two fifty-somethings and five college students, the second table squeezed together nine twenty- and thirty-somethings. I stopped and asked both groups what church they were from and got identical answers: we don’t go to church.
Now the default reaction for most mainline United Methodists is, why can’t we get these kids to come to church? They study the Bible — they’re obviously interested in the Christian faith. It seems like they are a prime target audience. They want to grow in their faith, we’re the church — BINGO! But therein lies the rub. Church and the Christian faith are not the same thing, and much of what those inside the church find so valuable, those outside do not. Much of what church members will tolerate, non-church members have no patience for. Attending worship — the meat-and-potatoes of modern United Methodism — is of secondary importance to those seeking spiritual formation in small groups. The sad fact is, we DON’T have what a large population is looking for. They want relationship with God, we offer them relationship with a church (small “c”).
Ecumental Disorders October 24, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Ecumenical & Interfaith Unity, Evangelism.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Evangelism, Faith Sharing
Some of the most fulfilling ministry I’ve been a part of in my thirty+ years has been either ecumenical or inter-faith. Beginning in my own “dark ages” as program director for the religious council at Ball State University, those projects and missional programs drawing from a broad diversity of faith traditions and backgrounds were without doubt the most fun and inspirational. I was ecumenically involved in my pastoral ministry and have been as globally ecumenical as possible through my work with the general church. I still am a vocal advocate for ecumenical involvement, but am surprised by the strong resistance I receive to the idea. Interestingly, the main objections I hear to ecumenical and inter-faith cooperation track very closely with five “popular” mental disorders. Here they are, with their UM parallels described:
Say It — A Rant October 10, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Congregational Life, Evangelism.
Tags: Faith Sharing, Witness
I am not known for keeping my mouth shut. I often say things in public settings that get me in trouble (see Minding Our Own Business). But, you know what? I don’t think letting people know we are Christian should be such a big, hairy deal. I said something in a social setting recently about being a Christian, and the people I was with (all Christians) acted embarrassed and uncomfortable. One young woman said, “You shouldn’t have said that about being a Christian. People will think less of you.”
Near-Miss Evangelism September 18, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Communication in the Church, Core Values, Evangelism, spiritual practices.
Tags: church marketing, Church membership, Evangelism
When did “evangelism” become “marketing?” At what point did the church rise up and say, “You know? Evangelism doesn’t have to be personal. We can phone (email, billboard, television, webcast) it in!” The shift from relational evangelism to representational evangelism is almost complete in some areas. At the School of Congregational Development I listened to one woman jubilantly explain about the “agency” her church hired to “do” its evangelism. She gushed about the slick brochures, the professional quality 30 second TV spots and web videos, the phoning push they contracted with a telemarketer to conduct on behalf of the church, and their direct mail strategy. She boiled it down to “once we receive 82 new giving units, the campaign will pay for itself in 3 years!” Praise Jesus.
I asked what the substance of their message was, and she immediately parroted, “Church for people who hate church!” I pushed a little deeper. “But, what is your invitation? What are you offering to people as “good news.” She cocked her head and said, “We’re leaving that to the professionals.”
My question is: who are “the professionals” when it comes to evangelism?
Superstitious Atheists, Superficial Believers July 24, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Evangelism, Religion in the U.S., Spiritual Trends.
Tags: church, Religious Trends
I read with some amusement the article in USA Today about “de-baptism” yesterday, and it raised for me the same question such stories always do: “What are atheists so afraid of?” In the past year, disgruntled and former believers have gathered in Ohio, Texas, Florida, and Georgia have gathered before a “priest” to have their baptism removed with a blow-dryer labeled “reason” (or some other cute gimmick). On the surface, this seems merely silly and immature (or fun-loving if you swing that way…), but at a deeper level some questions emerge:
- why is it necessary to participate in a symbolic ritual to prove you don’t believe in symbolic rituals?
- if baptism is irrelevant and meaningless, why take any steps to “remove” it? (it’s like saying we need to kill Santa Claus to prove he doesn’t exist…)
- what is the benefit of “debaptism” to the quality of life of the “debaptized”? (Yes, I realize many critics could ask the same question of the baptized and not receive a satisfactory answer…)
- why the defensiveness, sarcasm, and invective? Generally, people confident of their beliefs and mature in their behavior don’t feel the need to bully those with whom they disagree. If atheism is truly superior to the childish and irrational beliefs of the religious, shouldn’t unbelievers seek to take the high road? Many atheists, indignant with the “in-your-face” behavior of immature Christians respond in kind, feeling superior by calling Christians “doo doo heads” and “nut jobs.” Ultimately, immaturity is what both sides have in common, and it isn’t very pretty.